According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there have been an unprecedented number of West Nile virus cases this year. So far at least 693 people have contracted the virus and 28 of those people have died. The majority of cases occurred in Texas, though the CDC reports that cases have cropped up in 32 states.

The chances of dying from West Nile virus are less than 1%. In fact, approximately 80% of people who have West Nile virus don’t show any symptoms at all. Of the remaining 20% of cases, most people experience mild symptoms including fever, headache, nausea, and other flu-like symptoms. In rare cases, West Nile virus affects the nervous system. These cases tend to be fatal if untreated, and there’s currently no cure for West Nile virus.

West Nile Virus Prevention Strategies

There are a number of things that you can do to help prevent your exposure to West Nile as the virus is spread primarily through ticks and mosquitoes. Keep mosquitoes at bay by following these simple steps

1. Wear a bug repellent.

Insect repellents that contain DEET, lemon eucalyptus, or picardin are environmentally friendly and considered quite effective at keeping mosquitoes and other bugs away.

2. Stay inside at dusk and dawn.

Mosquitoes are most active during dusk and dawn. By staying indoors during these key times, you can greatly reduce your chance of getting bit. If you do need to be outside at either of these times of day, wear long sleeves and pants to protect your skin.

3. Clear your property of stagnant water.

Standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Puddles in flowerpots, pet water dishes, rain barrels, and children’s wading pools can all become mosquito magnets. Try to keep these standing water sources covered or drained. Children’s wading pools in particular should be emptied and stored on their sides between uses.

4. Don’t panic.

The odds of contracting a severe case of West Nile virus are extremely miniscule. Even if you know someone who has West Nile virus, the disease cannot be passed through casual contact. Getting bit by a mosquito is not cause to call your doctor. However, if you begin to feel muscle weakness, get a stiff neck, feel weakness in one arm or leg, or become confused, these may be signs of a severe form of West Nile. Use your common sense and when in doubt, contact your doctor.